March 10, 2015

Gospel MT 18:21-35
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had him put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
“Forgiveness” is a recurring theme of Jesus’ preaching. Throughout the gospels, he ties our being forgiven to our willingness to forgive those who sin against us.
However, forgiveness is a tricky business.
I may easily utter the words “I forgive you,” but Jesus calls us to “forgive your brother from your heart.”
That’s a whole different story. I cannot turn my heart off and on like a faucet.
There are times that I may want to forgive but bitterness and resentment stand as a sentinel holding my heart captive.
For me, there can be no such thing as a “justified resentment.”
Dwelling on how others have wronged me will most assuredly stand as a barrier to me ever being able to forgive and attain peace of mind.
To soften my heart toward my brother who has offended me, I need to look within myself and reflect upon how many times God and others have forgiven me.
Such prayer always brings me back to the Father’s final words to the angry, resentful, elder son in the story of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32)
“Look, dear son,” his father said to him. “You and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. But, it is right to celebrate. For he is your brother; and he was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!”
The reality is that God our Father, like any parent, loves all his children and wants us at peace with one another.
And when I finally recognize that truth, the sentinel standing guard over my anger and resentment bows his head and slinks away, leaving my heart free to forgive.
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25